The Voice referendum: Everything you need to know about Marcia Langton's proposed 36 network of Voices across Australia if the Yes vote wins

  • Marcia Langton urged government to implement 36 Voice bodies total
  • Minister Linda Burney wants to pursue ‘network of Voices’
  • PM and Labor direct Australians to Calma-Langton report 
  • Detail of what Voice could look like proposed in report 
  • READ MORE: Who is Marcia Langton?

Since committing to holding a referendum regarding a proposed Indigenous Voice to Parliament, Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and his cabinet have frequently referred back to the Calma-Langton Report.

The report was handed to the then-Coalition government in July 2021, long before Labor swept to power and kicked off a campaign to have the proposed advisory body written into the Australian constitution.

It calls for not one, but 36 Voice bodies.

One being the national proposal Australians will vote on at the October 14 referendum, and a further 35 ‘local and regional bodies’ to work together with all levels of government.

At the helm of the 272-page report is Professor Marcia Langton. She is inextricably tied to the Voice and has assisted the government of the day at every step to see the ‘generous request’ made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart come to fruition.

She has called for a ‘strong, resilient and flexible system which … will be part of a genuine shared decision-making with governments at the local and regional level’.

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

At the helm of the 272-page report is Professor Marcia Langton (left). She is inextricably tied to the Voice and has assisted the government of the day at every step to see the ‘generous request’ made in the Uluru Statement from the Heart come to fruition

The Voice should be designed to work alongside, complementing and amplifying existing structures, rather than as a means to replace them, she and her co-author, Tom Calma, found.

It is important to note the government has not formally adopted the report, but in several media interviews over the span of the campaign, Mr Albanese has urged the public to read it when he’s been asked for further details about the Voice.

Assistant Minister for Indigenous Australians Malarndirri McCarthy and Agriculture Minister Murray Watt have both also referred to further details about the proposal being available in the Calma-Langton report.

The government has committed to some of the key design principles laid out in the report.

The bulk of the details are yet to be seen, and will be determined by parliament after – and if – Australia votes Yes on October 14. Mr Albanese and his government say this is not unusual, and is simply a matter of confirming community support before engaging in the nitty-gritty side of the proposal.

Here, Daily Mail Australia reports the key suggestions laid out by Professor Langton and how she envisions up to 35 local and regional Voices working alongside the National Voice.

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

Professor Langton (pictured at Garma with the PM ) and her co-author wrote these regional Voices should be able to provide direct advice to the national Voice, creating a ‘two-way flow of advice and communication’ on ‘systemic issues associated with national policies and programs, and matters of national importance’

Local and Regional Voices

The government is yet to formally announce its position on local and regional Voices. It is not part of the referendum question and therefore, would not be written into the constitution.

However, Indigenous Australians Minister Linda Burney said in February she would seek to establish a network of regional Voices with state and territory governments.

READ MORE: Why Voice details must come AFTER referendum

‘Those things are very important,’ she told The West Australian.

‘We will obviously work with those States and Territories in the best way to pursue a network of voices across this country.’

The Calma-Langton report provides a thorough blueprint for such a task. It says community consultation indicated ’35 regions across Australia would be necessary to accommodate the complexities of implementing the Indigenous Voice proposals’.

Additionally, each region should be able to ‘decide how best to draw its Voice members’, whether it be via election, nomination, expressions of interest or another form of selection.

The report suggested these methods would ‘drawing on structures based in traditional law and custom, or a combination’.

The group would also have the freedom to determine ‘how many Voice members there will be’.

Professor Langton and her co-author wrote these regional Voices should be able to provide direct advice to the national Voice, creating a ‘two-way flow of advice and communication’ on ‘systemic issues associated with national policies and programs, and matters of national importance’.

Additionally, they sought for the local and regional Voices to be able to advise non-government sectors within communities, such as businesses and corporate entities.

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

The Calma-Langton report provides a thorough blueprint for such a task. It says community consultation indicated ’35 regions across Australia would be necessary to accommodate the complexities of implementing the Indigenous Voice proposals’

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

Yes campaigners are on the ground around Australia trying to explain the Voice proposal to everyday Australians

National Voice

The Calma-Langton report is the most detailed proposal Australians have regarding what a constitutionally enshrined Voice could look like at a national level.

The report was commissioned by the Coalition government, when there was no such undertaking to have the Voice written into our constitution.

However, the Prime Minister has referred back to the Calma-Langton report in radio and television interviews, as well as in conferences, since as early as 2022.

The report proposes three tiers of consultation standards – the first being an ‘obligation’ for parliament to consult with the Voice on ‘proposed laws that overwhelmingly relate to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people, or which are ‘special measures’.

READ MORE: What is the Makarrata Commission?

The second tier is the ‘expectation to consult’ on proposed laws and policies that ‘significantly impact’ them.

And the third tier is an ‘ability to consult the National Voice on any relevant matter’.

To allow for complete transparency, any bills would include an explanation about the consultation that took place, and the national Voice would be able to ‘table formal advice’.

‘All elements would be non-justiciable, meaning that there could not be a court challenge and no law could be invalidated based on whether there was alignment with the consultation standards or transparency mechanisms,’ the report reads.

The ‘non-justiciable’ reference has been repeatedly made by supporters of the Voice to Parliament in the face of repeated questions and criticisms from the Opposition about whether the advisory body could become a legal minefield.

The report called for the national Voice to be comprised of 24 members, two from each state and territory (one male, one female), and an additional five people representing remote regions. One person would be selected to represent Torres Strait Islander peoples on mainland Australia.

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

The report called for the national Voice to be comprised of 24 members, two from each state and territory (one male, one female), and an additional five people representing remote regions. One person would be selected to represent Torres Strait Islander peoples on mainland Australia

Additionally, there should be an option to ‘appoint up to two additional members if a particular skill set is required’.

The report said membership would be ‘structurally linked to the local and regional Voices’, and that members of those Voices would ‘collectively determine the national Voice members’.

‘This membership model draws on the strength, legitimacy and authority of Local & Regional Voices, particularly as developed under the principles of Inclusive Participation and Cultural Leadership,’ the report states.

Additionally, members of the national Voice would have four year staggered terms and be limited to a maximum of two consecutive terms. Two full time co-chairs would be selected, of different genders, and members would be subject to eligibility requirements such as ‘age, Indigenous identity, criminal conviction and bankruptcy’.

‘A member could be removed from their position for misconduct, subject to a review process and a two-thirds super-majority vote of the membership,’ the report stated.

In addition to the group itself, it would have two ‘permanent committees at it’s disposal’ if the report’s advice is followed – a Youth committee and a Disability committee.

The Voice would also have the power to create other expert committees when it sees fit under Professor Langton’s proposal.

Read the full Calma-Langton report here

the voice referendum: everything you need to know about marcia langton's proposed 36 network of voices across australia if the yes vote wins

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese has urged Australians and the media to read the report

What has the government confirmed about the Voice?

What kind of advice can the Voice provide the Parliament and Government?

The Voice will advise on matters that directly relate to Indigenous people.

It will respond to requests made by the government, while also having the power to engage proactively on matters that they believe impact them.

The group will have its own resources to research matters and engage with communities at a grassroots level to ensure it is best reflecting their needs.

How will members of the Voice be chosen?

Members of the Voice will be appointed by Indigenous communities and will serve on the committee for a fixed period of time, yet to be determined.

The way the communities choose their representatives will be agreed upon by the local communities in tandem with the government as part of a ‘post referendum process’ to ensure cultural legitimacy.

Who can become a member of the committee?

Members of the Voice must be Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islander.

They will be chosen from across each state and territory and have balanced gender representation nationally.

The government has also guaranteed that young people will be included in the committee to ensure representation across the broad scope of the community.

Will the Voice be transparent?

The government states the Voice will be subject to scrutiny and reporting requirements to ensure it is held accountable and remains transparent.

Voice members will be held to standards of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and will be sanctioned or removed from the committee if there are any findings of misconduct.

Will the Voice have veto power?

No.

Will the Voice work independently of other government bodies?

The committee must respect the work and role of existing organisations, the government says.

Will the Voice handle any funds?

The Voice will not directly manage any money or deliver any services to the community.

Its sole role will be in making representations about improving existing government programs and services, and advising on new ideas coming through the parties.

Read more

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